Reed flutes have been commonly used across the Middle East, Central Asia and the surrounding areas. Even in the present day you can find variations of reed flutes from Morocco to Pakistan and to Mongolia. While the Middle Eastern reed flutes â€˜Neyâ€™ became the standard flute for the music of that region and went through many development and refinements. The read flute of Pakistan (Narh, Narr, Nar), an oblique rim-blown flute, never became mainstreamed and remained prevalent only in the remote areas of Sindh and Baluchistan Provinces and neighboring Rajasthan.
Classical Ney of the Middle East (Persian, Turkish and Arabic) is used for playing melodies, however in Pakistan the Bansuri flute remained firmly established as the main melody flute for the region. This is partly because of the advantage Bansuri has in terms of the range of the pitch as well as the ability to produce â€˜Meendâ€™ slides which are an essential feature of the music of Indian subcontinent. Narh therefore remained in use for more rhythmic play rather than playing of the melody. However this was not the case historically and as we will examine below the melody music â€˜Gurâ€™ was also very much part of the Narh playing however it was restricted a small range of note. When Bansuri developed it almost wiped out most of Narh usage for playing melodies. Narh however still remains prevalent in the rhythmic play and melodic plays occasionally. Another interesting point to know is that because of this rhythmic and simple tune making function the Narh flute has only four holes in comparison to the Persian Ney which as 5 plus 1 holes and the Turkish and Arabic Neys which have 6 plus 1 holes giving them more range and note playing ability. The smaller number of holes in the Narh flute also point to the fact that it is quite possible that Narh was the oldest of the reed flute varieties whose history goes back to pre-historic times where the primitive music of India was based on only 3-5 notes. (Sengupta, 1991). Another wind instrument clay borrido from Sindh still uses the same 3-5 notes and Narh shows a close relationship in terms of musical note usage. Narh is therefore very important in the history of reed instruments serving as a link between modern and pre-historic music. Narhâ€™s music is linked to Love, parting and pain as per the folk traditions and comes into light in the story of Yusouf and Zulekha. Narh is also linked to the famous Sufi poet Shams Tabriz and probably is related to the Middle Eastern ney in this sense which is an established instrument of the sufi orders specially in Turkey. Narh was also mentioned in his poetry by great Sufi Poet of Sind, Hazrat Shah Abdould Latif Bhittai and the famous poem from Rumi â€œNay Namihâ€ which talk about a loverâ€™s separation, personified in a reed, from the bellowed as, a ney is separated from the reed-bed and produces songs of longing (Firoozeh, 2003)